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tv   On Assignment With Richard Engel  MSNBC  April 11, 2021 9:00pm-10:00pm PDT

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paraphernalia. >> all these people have some good, and you can reach in there and help pull this out. >> now you're speaking my language. >> i've helped hundreds of extremists. and while jeff still has a long road ahead of him. my hope is with him and other extre former extremists by my side, hundreds is just the beginning. g usa, usa! >> on january 6, 2021, the world's most powerful nation lost control of its seat of government. for more than four hours, the mob ruled. >> defend your constitution, defend your liberty. >> fanatic supporters of president trump roamed the u.s. capitol hunting for those they
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accused of treason. witnesses told the fbi some would have killed anyone they got their hands on. >> knock, knock! we're here! >> [ bleep ]. [ bleep ]. [ bleep ]. >> drag them out by the [ bleep ] hair. >> where are you, nancy? we're looking for you. >> nancy! oh, nancy! >> we want trump! >> it was the biggest threat to american democracy since the civil war. >> if you don't fight like hell, you're not going to have a country anymore.
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>> in a joint collaboration, nbc news and the online investigative group have reviewed and in cases uncovered thousands of hours of cctv footage, intercepted audio and cell phone video, much of it taken by the rioters themselves. we have identified more than a dozen critical moments and individuals that, together, show the attack was both planned and improvised. while police were completely overwhelmed. at noon in front of the white house, president trump is making a final bid to stay in power. >> we will never concede. it doesn't happen. you don't concede when there's theft involved. >> he's urging his supporters to stop congress and his vice
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president from certifying joe biden's victory. >> we love you! we love you! >> this year, using the pretext of the china virus and the scam of mail-in ballots, democrats attempted the most brazen and outrageous election theft. there's never been anything like this, a pure theft, in american history. everybody knows that. >> stop the steal! >> while trump is still speaking, 1.35 miles away, across the heart of washington, d.c., a crowd is gathering by the peace monument, in front of the u.s. capitol. >> usa! >> there are only a few hundred people here. but they're ready for a fight. >> you can't stop us! we're comin'! >> and they're about to test the perimeter's defenses. like in all battles, the terrain is critical.
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the peace monument, where the small crowd is gathered, is 205 yards from the capitol's western steps. the capitol building sits atop a small hill, symbolizing it as the pinnacle of democracy. it's situated 50 feet before the peace monument. six small sets of steps separate the two locations. >> 1776! >> 1776! >> at 12:53, a small group of protesters by the peace monument makes a first tentative move to breach the capitol perimeter. they remove the fencing. >> patriots! patriots! >> at first, only a few cross over. others urge them not to. >> they don't realize they'll be shot.
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>> but the police do not stop them, let alone shoot. emboldened, the trickle soon becomes a flood. >> fight for truth! >> seconds after crossing the outer fence without resistance, the protesters are blocked by police. in multiple videos from different angles, we counted fewer than 20 officers, up against hundreds of trump supporters. the police are overpowered in 65 seconds. the crowd rushes toward the capitol. they've only gone a few yards, but they did it easily. the dam has been broken. and the front of the pack is dominick pezzola.
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43 years old, dominic pezzola lives in rochester, new york. he graduated from a catholic high school. classmates say he was a gifted athlete, on the boxing team. after graduating, he joined the marines, serving six years, never deploying. his military service was a source of immense pride. but his finances appear not to have been stable. over the last five years, he owed tens of thousands in back taxes. some who knew him told the nbc rochester affiliate he'd grown increasingly bitter and confrontational. at 12:59, pezzola and the others surged right up to the western steps of the capitol. this time they're stopped by a larger police presence. inside, congress is meeting in a joint session to confirm
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president-elect's joe biden's victory. normally, the certification process is a formality, but donald j. trump refuses to accept he lost. >> you have to fight like hell. if you don't fight like hell, you're not going to have a country anymore. >> just after 1:00 p.m., trump finishes speaking by the white house. >> let's walk down pennsylvania avenue. i want to thank you all. god bless you, and god bless america. >> trump's devoted followers who'd come here from all over the country start marching toward the capitol, en route to join the group by the peace monument that had already breached the outer perimeter. reenforcements are now on the way.
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our country has had enough.
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we will not take it anymore. and that's what this is all about. and to use a favorite term that all of you really came up with, we will stop the steal. >> as soon as president trump finished his rally on january 6. >> yeah, trump 2020, baby! >> his most devoted followers marched to the u.s. capitol to stop congress from certifying the election. >> got to storm the [ bleep ]ing capitol. they're going to break the doors down. they're already at the doorstep. >> they joined forces with the crowds who'd already easily breached the capitol's outer perimeter. >> everybody's coming in. moms, dads, brothers, sisters. got everybody. everybody just moving through the barrier. >> look at this.
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this is patriotism. >> we the people! we the people! >> but now the police are holding the line. >> stop the steal! >> defend the constitution! you took an oath. >> we the people! >> we are devoted! they stole it! we want our [ bleep ] country back. >> 1776! >> the mob's battle cry is 1776. the year americans fought for their freedom. >> 1776, 1776! >> they think they're doing it again now. >> whose country is this? >> our country! >> whose house is this? >> our house! >> you want your house back? >> yes! >> take it! >> once again, the terrain is critical.
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the capitol is like a wedding cake. in front of it are three main tiers, linked by staircases. two sets of bleachers have been installed over the stairs. to be viewing stands for president-elect biden's upcoming inauguration. the bleachers on the left will prove to be a weak point in the capitol's defenses. >> [ bleep ]. >> join us! >> what happens next is difficult to see. so we've slowed down the video. the man in the black hat is the former marine, dominick pezzola, as he and others wrestle with police, pezzola is knocked to the ground.
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going frame by frame, you can see he grabs a police riot shield. he'll soon put it to use. inside, the joint session is certifying the election, state by state, alphabetically. alabama and alaska are up first. trump won those. republicans do not object. next up is arizona, which went to biden. republican representative paul gosar and ted cruz formally reject the results. house and senate members retire to their respective chambers to debate the objection. outside word quickly spreads. >> just rejected arizona's vote. [ bleep ] is about to get real. >> police fire flash grenades.
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but the attackers are unrelenting. >> get back, get back! >> we will not bend, we will not break! >> the crowds that attacked the u.s. capitol were not ordinary protesters. and many came prepared. a detailed examination of the hand symbols. flags, insignias and patches reveal that many were conspiracy theorists, guns rights activists, anti-government extremists or members of hate groups and militias. confronting police with a baseball bat is robert gieswein. although he's dressed in full combat gear, 24-year-old robert
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gieswein never served in the military, but he loves guns. friends at the casino where he worked in colorado knew him as "machine gun bobby." he's a big proponent of bump stocks, a now illegal item. ittal louds -- it allows a semiautomatic rifle to act as a machine gun. >> what's next? magazines? and semi-autos? >> he had already arrived in d.c. the day before the assault and was openly talking about his militia back home. >> yeah, i have a militia in colorado. >> back in colorado, he posed for a photo outside shooters grill, the gun-themed restaurant owned by republican congresswoman lauren bobert.
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back on the western steps police now are fighting valiantly. but they're losing ground. >> hold the line! [ bleep ], [ bleep ]. >> one sting ball deployed. >> this is democracy. this is what you get with rule of the mob! >> and then the mob surges left. the rioters have been battling police for more than half an hour. when they charged the left set of bleachers erected for the
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upcoming inauguration. the bleachers are built over stairs that lead right to the capitol's doors and windows. the police are determined to defend this choke point. but, again, they're outnumbered. >> they're scaling the scaffold to the capitol! >> there's a million and a half behind us! >> this is our house mother [ bleep ]. >> geiswein, the blackjack dealer turned militiaman sprays an officer with a chemical. pezzola is behind him with the shield he stole earlier. >> why don't you shut up, okay?
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>> they've breached the scaffold. they have breached the scaffold. they are behind our lines. >> [ bleep ] you need to pull back your resources. if they're getting behind you, you don't have enough resources. >> if i give this up, they're going to have direct access. at least the scaffold we can defend. we gotta hold what we have. >> oh, they're going in. >> let's go! >> when the rioters reach the upper level, they're nearly at the capitol's entrances. a few officers hold them off for about 30 seconds. and then it's over. they've won.
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start stopping with nicorette this is our capitol! >> just after 2:00 p.m., a riotous mob of trump supporters has broken into the u.s. capitol on its western side. they are shocked and exhilarated by their triumph.
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they believe they are saving america from tyranny. >> let's go, let's go! >> we're marching for now. >> [ bleep ]. >> these people broke in from the western side. but it's not the only way in. on the eastern side of the capitol the mobs are closing in, too. >> usa! usa! usa! >> they just breached it! they're stormin' the capitol! hell, yeah! >> the eastern side of the capitol is the official
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entrance. >> let's go! >> it's now or never! >> charge! >> we're goin' in! we're goin' in! >> they stormed it. they stormed it. >> we were invited by the president of the united states! >> 1776! 1776! 1776! >> here, they manage to break a window. >> be advised they're requesting additional resources on the east side as they've broken into that window and they're trying to kick it in. >> but police stop them, for now.
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♪ oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave ♪ >> pushed back after breaking the window, trump's self-declared patriots get ready for another charge. ♪ o'er the land of the free ♪ ♪ and the home of the brave ♪♪ [cheers and applause] >> woo! >> a group forms a stack. a military formation used to enter and clear buildings. in the stack is jessica watkins. 38-year-old jessica watkins served in the army and deployed to afghanistan. watkins is a transgender woman. and according to her own account, she received an
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other-than-honorable discharge when the army determined her presenting as a female was unacceptable. she ran a bar in ohio with her boyfriend. earlier on january 6, she'd been at president trump's save america rally, providing security, she claims. with a group called the oath keepers, a militia, largely made up of former military and police. as watkins walks from trump's rally by the white house to the capitol, she speaks on a walkie-talkie app on her phone. the conversation suggests advanced planning. >> what kind of numbers do we have going to the capitol? any estimates? what percentage of the crowd is going to the capitol? >> 100%. everybody's marching on the capitol, all million of us. it's insane.
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we're about two blocks away from it now, and police are doing nothing. they're not even trying to stop us at this point. >> a reporter from npr overheard and recorded the communications. >> we have a good group. we've got 30, 40 of us. we're sticking together and sticking to the plan. >> we'll see you soon, jess. airborne. >> roger that, brother. god speed and fair winds to us. >> amen, sister, stay safe. >> watkins had been preparing for months. in texts from november, cited in court documents and now being used as evidence, she wrote a potential recruit. i need you fighting fit by inauguration. in another text, she wrote, biden may still be our president. if he is, our way of life as we know it is over. our republic would be over. then it is our duty as americans to fight, kill and die for our rights.
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as the crowds from the trump rally get closer to the capitol, watkins gives progress reports. >> yeah, we're one block away from the capitol now. i'm probably going to go silent when i get there, because i'm going to be a little busy. >> the walkie talkie app she's using allows supporters to join in from a group chat from anywhere. >> the u.s. military news is reporting that the national capitol has been breached. that's right, mother [ bleep ]. this is a can of whoop [ bleep ] made in america, yeah. >> witnessing history, boss dog. >> you are executing citizens arrest. arrest this assembly. we have probable cause. acts of treason, election fraud. >> be advised they've breached the senate door on the east side of the building as well. >> [ bleep ]. >> treason!
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treason! treason! >> watkins and the other oath keepers manage to break in. >> we are in the mezzanine. we are in the main dome. we are in here. >> be safe, god bless and godspeed and keep going. >> get it, jess! do your [ bleep ]. this is what we've [ bleep ] lived up for. everything we [ bleep ] trained for. ♪ glory, glory hallelujah ♪ >> then, like so many of the attackers, she and another oath keeper pose for selfies. >> we took over the capitol, overran the capitol. >> we're in the [ bleep ] capitol. >> jessica watkins isn't the only one who didn't come here by accident.
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>> up the stairs! >> below the rotunda, ushering people to go upstairs is riley williams. >> up the stairs! go! 22-year-old riley williams graduated from mechanicsburg area senior high school in pennsylvania. she didn't attend college and took a job as a home health care worker. she lived with her mother. but much of williams' life was spent online, where she was a fixture on white supremacist websites. this is also riley williams. >> there is no political solution. all that is left is acceleration.
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>> the investigative group bellingcat first obtained the video from one of its volunteers. we verified it, comparing it to other videos of riley, including several suggestive ones she posted exposing tattoos which along with her dresses she wore, her glasses and ultimately a light fixture confirmed her identity. inside the capitol, riley is encouraging people to go upstairs. upstairs is speaker pelosi's office. >> usa, usa, usa, usa! many of the rioters believe speaker pelosi masterminded the plot to steal the election from donald trump. this is her office. the fbi believes this is riley williams' voice.
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>> i'm in nancy -- >> on the desk is one of pelosi's laptops. williams is accused of stealing the laptop and trying to pass it to russian intelligence. riley williams turned herself in to police. her mother says she was just swept up in the moment. >> there is no political -- >> and her lawyer won't confirm or deny this is williams in the video.
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you work for us! >> the capitol is known as "the people's house." >> our house! >> the rioters who broke in to stop joe biden becoming president think it's their house.
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>> it's [ bleep ] their house. this is our house. that's it. >> our house! our house! >> they believe they're saving america from a plot to subvert democracy. a conspiracy created by president trump. almost immediately after breaking in, the rioters start hunting for lawmakers. >> [ bleep ]. >> they approach a doorway blocked by one officer. eugene goodman. goodman's hand is on his pistol. he sdents draw >> go, go! >> [ bleep ].
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>> back up, back up! >> [ bleep ]. >> he's one person. >> but the police are not the main targets. >> [ bleep ]. >> the rioters want to find the legislators they accuse of treason, a crime punishable by death. >> [ bleep ] where are the traitors. drag them out by the [ bleep ] hair! >> [ bleep ]. >> usa, usa, usa, usa! >> the fbi believes some of the rioters would have killed government officials if they'd found them. >> speaker pelosi? we're coming. mike pence, we're coming for you, too. >> but the capitol isn't an easy building to navigate. >> nancy pelosi! where you at, nancy? >> guess what, america showed up!
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>> the capitol is 175,000 square feet. miles of hallways, 600 offices. faced from the west, the senate is on the left. the house of representatives is on the right. the domed rotunda is in the middle, supported by a room of arches known as "the crypt." congressional staffers take cover. they barricade the doors. vice president mike pence is escorted to safety with an aide carrying codes to nuclear weapons. >> knock, knock! we're here! >> when rioters enter the senate chamber, they find it empty. >> where the [ bleep ] are they? let's take a seat, people! take a seat! >> nancy pelosi! [ bleep ]. >> [ bleep ]. >> they occupy what james
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madison described as the most stable member of the government. >> get out of that chair! >> no, this is my chair! >> i agree with you, brother, but it's not ours. it belongs to the vice president of the united states. it's not our chair. >> [ bleep ]. >> yeah! >> ted cruz's objection. >> he was going to sell us out all along. >> it's an insurrection of madness. >> yeah! [ bleep ]. >> this is jacob chansley. 33-year-old chansley is an unemployed voice actor who lives in phoenix, arizona with his mother. he spent two years in the navy
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as a store keeper seaman apprentice but was discharged after refusing to take an anthrax vaccine. he's a fixture at pro-trump rallies where he evangelizes about qanon. he's known at qanon shaman. while the rioters search for proof of the a conspiracy of the senate, on the other side of the capitol, the house of representatives is not yet fully evacuated. >> everybody stay down. >> officials and journalists inside fear for their lives. >> get down under your chairs if necessary, so we have folks entering the rotunda and coming down this way, so stay calm. >> the police here are ready to defend the chamber with lethal force. >> you are a traitor. >> at 2:41, a group of rioters advances down a hallway, leading to the house. among them, ashli babbitt.
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35-year-old ashli babbitt is an air force veteran. she voted for obama, then trump. she lives in san diego with her husband and their girlfriend. her social media shows she was enraged about california politics, illegal immigration and much more. >> where's kamala? where is kamala? talking about isis and kkk. you know what? we have thousands of people on the other side of the border, you people can't get to work. our economy is going to take an absolute tank, because you guys refuse to choose america, america over your stupid political party! >> we first see babbitt entering the capitol through a window on the west side. bellingcat tracked her as she traversed the building, moving upstairs, circling the rotunda and ending up in the hallway just outside the house chamber. >> [ bleep ].
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>> i want you to go home, go, go, go! let's go! >> there, the rioters are blocked by a partition. on the other side, police are ready to shoot. >> he has a gun, he has a gun! >> he's got a gun! >> he's got a gun! >> it's about to get dirty, man. that officer's got a gun. >> as babbitt climbs through the partition. >> oh, [ bleep ]. >> she is shot. >> shots fired, shots fired! >> where's she hit? >> [ bleep ].
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>> the rioters accuse police of murder. >> you did that! >> they get in the way of police attempts to save her. ashli babbitt's death is the beginning of the end of the insurrection. >> we got to get her body out of here. hold on. we got to get her out. >> after trump's fanatical supporters stormed their way into the u.s. capitol and ran amok for 40 minutes. police reenforcements finally arrive. they start to clear the building.
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with tear gas and force. >> [ bleep ]. >> as the rioters make a last push to get back in. president trump issues a statement later that afternoon. he'd been watching all of this on tv. >> i know your pain. i know you're hurt. we had an election that was stolen from us. we love you. you're very special. i know how you feel. but go home and go home in peace. but they can't be held back. they want to be set free. to make the world more responsible, and even more incredible. ideas start the future, just like that.
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by 5:30 p.m., the capitol building has finally been secured. the people failed and congress comes back to certify the victory. >> joseph r. biden has received 306 votes, donald trump has received 232 votes. >> in the days after, the police who faced down the mob reveal how dangerously close the rioters came to their ultimate goal. >> do you think they would have killed people if they would have found senators, congressmen? >> there is not one thing they said or did that would lead me to believe otherwise. >> harry dunn has been a capitol police officer for 13 years. his first glimpse of the chaos came as rioters stormed the capitol's western side.
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>> i had a rifle, a long gun, and we were told that they wanted us to stay away from the crowds. so we took our position of advantage. so we were overseeing the crowd. >> you have a military assault rifle. you show up. and you're on that upper tier looking down on this riot. >> uh-huh. >> what do you see? >> you see thousands and thousands and thousands of people. and they're just continuing to come. it's waves of them. and they are fighting with the officers down there. the ones on the front line. and you see the rioters down there. they had their weapons. they had smoke grenades, bear spray, they had gas masks on. so they knew that this was going to happen. >> one officer, brian sicknick, was killed. more than 140 police were injured.
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they were calling out the whole time "traitors, join us. we are the good guys." >> they had a good way of showing it. >> how did that sound to you, when they were like, we're the blue lives matter guys, help us. >> it enrages you. you want to say get the hell out of here. they had the nerve to be beating officers with the blue lives matter flag. people say that didn't happen. it's on tape. they got some nerve saying they're doing this for us. what? in what world does that make sense? >> reporter: as the capitol was overrun, officer dunn was called to respond inside the building. >> you're called in because the building has been breached. and now there's six of you and you guys know the building.
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what do you -- what do you see? >> you walk up those steps and you just see hundreds of people running around in there like it's a raid. they got their arms around statues, taking selfies. i had a moment why i just paused and said this can't be real life. >> what do you do, do you say i've got to go, do you fire in the air? yell at them? put your hands on them? what do you do? >> get the [ bleep ] out! you're not welcome here. get out! this is our house. this is my house, and i said you've got to go. you had people coming up asking where the bathroom was. people asking hey, where's the exit? the same way you came in. get the [ bleep ] out. the calls, and the radio got more severe. they went from hey, they're
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breaching this window. or hey, they're overrunning us here to hey, you've got an officer trapped, surrounded by people. you got staffers that are calling police. because they're hearing banging on the doors. >> reporter: in this video shot by a west virginia lawmaker, officer dunn is seen trying to reason with a group of protestors. >> what about the fact that you are a black officer, and there were guys in there who were wearing camp auschwitz t-shirts. was being a black officer a big factor for you? >> there was a time, one instance, it was off of the rotunda area, and i was still holding the hallway. and these people are standing there yelling. so i started talking to them, talked about --
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i started saying i voted for joe biden, and they said, did you hear that? this "n" word voted for joe biden and they started booing. and the people that were with them joined in with them and said yeah, this n-word, f-you. he voted for joe biden. f-you, boo. >> what do you think it means about the state of america, where we are today? you've had a little bit of time now to process it. >> we've got a long way to go. we've got a long way to go. and what makes that even scarier is that people still don't acknowledge what happened as bad. yeah, it wasn't cool. but it wasn't a big deal. it wasn't a big deal?
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what if they succeeded? would it be a big deal if they succeeded? they wanted to hang mike pence. what if they did? would it have been a big deal then? kill nancy pelosi. >> where are you, nancy? >> what if they did? it wasn't a big deal? the police, we did our job. we fought like hell to protect democracy. it wasn't a big deal. >> reporter: more than 400 protestors have been charged for the capitol breach. dominic pezzola is awaiting trial on 11 counts, including conspiracy and assault and could face up to 20 years in prison. he pled not guilty. robert gieswein is facing charges for assault with a
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baseball bat and aerosol spray. jessica watkins is behind bars after a judge said she was too dangerous to be released prior to trial. she's pled not guilty. riley williams is charged with four counts, including aiding or abetting the theft of government property. jacob chansley has pled not guilty to six charges. once chansley's lawyer responded to nbc's request for comment on the charges. he said chansley is in the process of reconciling with the propaganda, words, and actions of former president trump. ashley babbitt died of a gunshot wound. her family accused police of an unjustified use of deadly force and calling for an investigation. president trump was impeached for incitement of insurrection but was acquitted. today, a security fence surrounds the capitol building. the public kept further away from the people's house.
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i'm craig melvin. >> and i'm natalie morales. >> and this is "dateline." >> how far would you go? how long would you wait to get justice for a friend? >> he killed her. he needed to pay for it. >> they had been college roommates, super close. until that terrible night. >> reporter: the wounds could suggest rage at the victim. >> absolutely. swhoz could have done it, her boyfriend? her ex? >> he was very obsessed with angie. >> the trail wen

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